The interest with which the Catholic Church is following the dynamics of the inclusion of residents and citizens of the Muslim religion into the European context, both at individual and community levels, was confirmed during the meeting of delegates for relations with Islam from the European Bishops’ Conferences. It is a complex process not lacking in ambiguities, from which emerges the challenge – which becomes reality – of the gradual inculturation of Islam in Europe, with the subsequent manifestation of its more truly religious and moral dimension, rather than its political one. All the cultural and theological initiatives which are an expression of what is described as “theology of inculturation”, are followed with great interest since they open and strengthen processes of positive participation in European social and cultural life, in a pluralist context, open to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
In such a framework, the Church follows with interest the expectations and initiatives arising within the heart of the Muslim communities aimed at providing their own religious leaders – imams, teachers – with an appropriate theological and cultural formation to carry out their religious role effectively in a European context; the Church hopes that such initiatives – including the establishment of Chairs of Islamic Theology in public Universities in countries where theology is a discipline present in the university system – can be organised, with the right adaptations, according to the legal framework of the relations existing between State and Church. In this perspective the Church views positively that denominational religious education in the state school can include other religious traditions as well, including Islam, holding to the requirements provided for in the different States for the pursuit of such a purpose.
Widening the horizon to the Mediterranean area, the Bishops’ Conference delegates are sympathetic to the expressions of a desire for democracy, freedom, and the appeal for respect for the dignity of the human person of which young people have been the protagonists in various Arab countries in these recent months of great political change; and they hope that the process underway can lead to the full acquisition of the right of freedom of religion in such countries, in such a way that Arab Christians, too, can enjoy such freedom in a substantial manner in the framework of a true egalitarian citizenship.
The delegates then offered a critical assessment of the term “Islamophobia”, used to interpret the reactions of hostility towards Islam present in European society, preferring to use rather the categories “fear” and “hostility”. While confirming the Church’s commitment to overcoming such reactions which lead to intolerance, they exhort Muslims to develop positive and sincere relations in the different contexts so as to rebut such interpretations.
Finally, the delegates confirmed the conviction of the Catholic Church in Europe in pursuing with renewed commitment the dialogue with Muslims according to the school of the Second Vatican Council and the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, a dialogue in which Christians and Muslims are called to take on three challenges: the challenge of identity (to know and accept who and what we are); the challenge of otherness (our differences must not lead to hatred, but should be considered a source of mutual enrichment); the challenge of sincerity, which implies manifesting one’s own faith without imposing it in a pluralist context and in a perspective of dialogue.
The work, guided by the Archbishop of Bordeaux and CCEE Vice-president, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, also saw the participation of the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran.
At the end of the meeting, the delegates from the Bishops’ Conferences thanked the Archbishop of Turin, Mgr Cesare Nosiglia, for his hospitality; Don Andrea Pacini, for organising the meeting; and the Cenacle Sisters for their warm welcome. The meeting progressed in a warm and friendly atmosphere, enriched by moments of prayer and the daily celebration of Mass.
* The Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) gathers the Presidents of the current 33 European Bishops’ Conferences of this Continent, represented by their Presidents, and the Archbishops of Luxembourg and of the Principality of Monaco, the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, as well as the Bishop of Chişinău (Moldavia). The President is Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary; the Vice-Presidents are Cardinal Josip Bosanić, Archbishop of Zagreb, and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux. The General Secretary of CCEE is Mgr Duarte da Cunha. The headquarters of the Secretariat is in St Gallen (Switzerland).
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CCEE Media officer